Monday, February 13, 2012

Murals: Scenes from the Bible

Abe V Rotor

My family and I had the opportunity to view these beautiful murals in a prayer room inside the huge Agoo cathedral in La Union. Painted on the concrete walls some ten feet high the murals recreate some scenes of the bible surrounding the visiting pilgrims in prayers.

I stood with awe and admiration to both the art and its message. It was travelogue sort of in time and place. And looking closely at the murals, they must have been the work of a single artist influenced greatly by the old school as shown by his faithful reproduction of biblical figures, the colors which reminded me of Rembrandt and Goya. Could it be that the blurred lines were also an influence of Da Vinci's style? The pleating of the robes and dresses is unmistakably El Greco's sans foreshortening effect because the place had a rather low ceiling. I could sense in them quaintness from Amorsolo and passion from Luna. The local artist - whoever he is - must have been very knowledgeable in his art and sense of history and religion.

Maybe I have my bias of elevating these murals to the level of a masterpiece. More so because I found them in a fast deteriorating state being exposed to the elements. Moisture from the concrete wall has destroyed much of their original colors and fine details. In fact the paints are peeling off, and lime water is seeping through the cracks and drying up into crusts over sensitive parts. Ironically works of art when endangered are perceived with concern and in effect become more precious . Remember the hieroglyphics inside the pharoahs' tomb in Egypt? The cave paintings in Lascaux, France? And similarly the cave paintings and engravings in Montalban, Rizal? No less than the Last Supper by Da Vinci and the Sistine Chapel ceiling murals by Michelangelo faced even greater problems. Fortunately they were restored in time and today they stand out among the most popular paintings in the world.

They say time is the greatest test of an art. It is patient and cruel in a way. But it gives us time to heed its distress call for artists and patrons of art themselves to come to the rescue. This is how classics are made.

If you go up north this Lenten season, find time to visit (Bisita Iglesia) at Agoo Cathedral and see these beautiful murals.

These scenes are based on the Old Testament. The murals
are indeed old. They could be as old as the original Agoo
church on which the present cathedral was built.

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